Racing mountain bikes overseas this season has proved a bitter-sweet experience for Queenstown talents Kate Fluker and Alanna Columb.
The two national champions are back in the resort decompressing from battling against the sport’s elite at the world champs in Andorra and the UCI World Cup series.
Both say with post-season perspective they’re reasonably satisfied with how they went but there were heart-wrenching disappointments along the way.
Fluker, who races cross country, says in the second half of the season she experienced her first dip in form since she began racing in 2010.
Fluker, 28, says: “It was confusing for me because I didn’t have particularly sore legs or anything, I just lost a bit of power.
“Having to peak for Oceania in March and racing in New Zealand, I just couldn’t hold it over that many months.
“It was from being overworked for too long - it’s a really common thing but the first time it’d happened to me.
“That was tough emotionally but now I’m home I’m stoked and proud of the first half.”
Highlights of the season included second places in the Alpen Tour four-day stage race in Schladming, Austria, and a Cat 1 XCO Race in Kitzbuhel, Austria.
She also won the Hill Climb race, which was held in Kitzbuhel.
But despite top-20 world cup finishes in the first half, Fluker fell away in the second half and then placed 41st at the world champs.
Downhiller Columb, meanwhile, achieved 18th place overall in the world cups despite racing only three of the seven-race series in Europe and the US.
She’d hoped for a top-eight finish in Andorra at least. But a crash on her final run saw her finish 11th.
Columb, 27, says: “We’d practised all week on a wet track but then come race run it was totally different; parts wet, parts dry.
“I had a big old crash coming round thinking a rut would be there that wasn’t. I missed the bridge and had to
pull my bike back up.
“It was pretty disappointing. I was feeling on form and finally up to speed.”
Funding struggles meant Columb could only afford to attend three world cup races before the final - scoring a tenth finish and two twelfths.
“To join these awesome girls when they’re two-thirds of the way through the season when they’re on fire was difficult - but I was pretty happy.”
Columb says she’s got a big summer planned and has set some achievable results.
Both Fluker and Columb intend to race the World Cup series next year with Fluker also eyeing selection for the Rio Olympics in August.
Downhill isn’t yet an Olympic sport.